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Race Should Not Be An Issue in Chicagoland Politics
By RAY HANANIA • Friday, March 02, 2012
Southwest News-Herald Newspaper
Race shouldn’t be an issue in politics, but when it is used to draw boundaries, we should be considering the interests of all of the racial groups involved.
The 23rd Ward is a good example of how officials surrendered to the demands of one racial group in Chicago at the expense of many other racial groups.
The new 23rd Ward is drawn like a “snake” that ducks and dodges around areas from the west side of Chicago deep into the east. How do you give residents consistent services in a ward drawn like a bowling alley with nooks, crannies and detours?
The map was designed that way to expand the number of Hispanic residents in the ward and make the majority residents there Hispanic — all without undermining existing wards that have majority Hispanic populations.
Seriously, government spends a lot of money and time thinking about how to make ethnic and racial groups politically happy and apparently not enough time thinking about whether or not communities are safe or are receiving proper levels of government services.
But since race is the determining factor in drawing the 23rd Ward, I have a question. And it’s an important question.
What about the Polish Americans who live in the Southwest Side and in the 23rd Ward? Don’t they also have rights? Don’t they have the population to guarantee that at least one ward in the Southwest Side has a Polish representative.
Ald. Mike Zalewski is one of the few remaining members of the Chicago City Council with a Polish American name. Polish immigration to the area is higher than even Mexican American immigration.
Yet no one seems to care about Polish Americans.
In reality, even if you raise the Hispanic population to over 60 percent of a ward’s population, as this new and ridiculously shaped 23rd Ward map does, it doesn’t guarantee turnout. (This is not a criticism of the importance of giving Hispanics representation. They deserve it. But it shouldn’t be done artificially.)
The facts are the facts. White voters including Polish Americans vote at one of the highest levels of engagement of any ethnic or racial group in Chicago. Hispanic voter turnout is among the lowest. African American voter turnout is high. And there are other ethnic groups like Irish, Italians and Arabs.
Don’t these other groups count, too?
The point is that an alderman’s race or ethnicity should not be the most important factor in deciding who is the best alderman for a ward. Ald. Ed Burke in the 14th Ward and Michael Madigan, the Democratic Committeeman in the 13th Ward, are among the most effective in bringing services to their wards, and their wards have large Hispanic populations, too.
The current City Council is comprised of 22 whites, 19 blacks, eight Latinos and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who is of Indian descent.
The rumor is rampant that Ald. Zalewski is considering stepping down at a near-future date to take a position with the City of Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation Department. Who knows if the rumor is true, but Zalewski has a lot of experience there.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also preparing to name a Hispanic to take Zalewski’s place.
Who knows that will really happen? But in Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago, where your race and ethnicity means more than the delivery of effective and superior government services, anything can and probably will happen.
Shattering the 23rd Ward will only end up destroying the stability of the Southwest Side of Chicago, encourage politics by race rather than performance and voter turnout, and undermine Chicago’s diversity.
(Tune in to Radio Chicagoland on Sundays from 8 to 11 a.m. on WSBC AM 1240 in Chicagoland and Northern Illinois, and on WCFJ AM 1470 in the Southtlands and NW Indiana to discuss this and other topics, or visit www.RadioChicagoland.com.) — City & Suburban News-Herald
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at TheArabDailyNews.com, TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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